As I interviewed Herb Kim in the smart offices of the Centres of Excellence within the Centre for Life, it struck me just what a passionate individual he is. Herb is to head up CODEWORKS, the new company title of what was formerly known as the Digital Technology and Media Centre of Excellence. CODEWORKS is one of five centres of excellence established by the Regional Development Agency, One NorthEast, in specialist areas under its 200m Strategy for Success. The centre is set up on a not for profit basis with the specific goal of building the digital industries of the North East of England. Since becoming the man in charge, Herb has been tenacious in his goal setting and defining what CODEWORKS is to achieve.

Herb boasts an impressive international track record in private sector technology and media-related businesses. While CODEWORKS is a new company spun off from the RDA, he feels that CODEWORKS has an ethos that is very similar to private enterprise. "I enjoy being involved at a grassroots level," said Herb. "Most of my past experience has been from a start up stage, and with CODEWORKS the core values are exactly the same, that of involvement, dynamism and hard work."

CODEWORKS - backed by an influential board of North East businesses and academic leaders - is looking to work closely with North East universities and businesses and invest in high-tech firms and technologies to nurture their growth. Although he has never been involved with academic institutions in this capacity before, Herb realises the potential rewards that their involvement offers: "The universities of the North East are maturing rapidly in their approach to technology commercialisation and will play a pivotal role in developing the digital landscape of the region. CODEWORKS will enable these institutions to forge closer relationships not only with each other, but also with leading technology and digital media companies." The development of links between the public, private and education sectors allows not only a fantastic knowledge transfer, but also allow the Centre to provide a more efficient range of services in support of, venturing and development.

One of the long-term aims of CODEWORKS is to help establish new sustainable, high growth companies, capable of emulating the success of world leading firms such as Newcastle-based business management software giant Sage UK Ltd, and to build on the North East's international strengths in fields such GRID computing or games development. "Sage provides an excellent example of what we are attempting to achieve", commented Herb, "In the North East we are definitely punching above our weight on a per capita basis. Sage, for example, is the only software company still in the FTSE 100." Herb is adamant however that if the region is to become a real force in digital technology, then more emphasis must be placed on retaining the best people: "We are specifically looking to develop a knowledge economy, and as such evolve more specialist jobs which will lead to a greater retention of highly able workers and graduates."

One NorthEast will fund CODEWORKS' core activities over the next five years, the DTi having given permission to form a company limited by guarantee. "We will work with established and start-up companies or new technologies that we believe have true promise on a national or international scale," said Herb. "We are currently looking at investment into three companies, one in Northumberland, one in County Durham and one in Tyne and Wear. These are not grants but investments - if the companies do well then the public shares in that wealth to assist in the growth of the 'Knowledge Economy' in the North East. The North East already has companies that are competing successfully on an international scale. Some companies have nearly all their income coming in as export dollars from New York and California."

Although this is a very exciting time to be part of CODEWORKS, Herb is in no doubt as to the size of the task if the initiative is to reach its potential. "This is a very innovative and dynamic project for a public sector undertaking. Communication is essential when so many diverse parties and organisations are involved; to maximise effectiveness, we must ensure that everyone is 'reading from the same page'. It is also crucial that we make wise investments relevant to the North East with the aim that in the future, CODEWORKS will be largely self-funded. We believe our investments will pay back within a 12 months to five-year period. Outside of London, we want the North East to be considered as the leading UK region for digital industries."

CODEWORKS is set to be officially incorporated by October. Herb is eager to start working with local enterprises from the outset: "If an individual or company has a project or proposal involving the exploitation of digital technology or media that will result in competitive and sustainable commercial activity, then we'd be very interested in speaking with them about this." For more information, go to, or you can get in touch with CODEWORKS directly through enquiries.

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